How different is it to manage HR for remote teams? In many ways successful remote teams are managed the same as those located under the same roof.
It’s fine deciding that you want to open up your access to the widest possible pool of talent.
But how does HR cope with recruiting, training, managing benefits and the welfare of staff they’ve never met – or may never see – in person?
Do you have a remote ready company culture?
The truth is though that effective HR for remote teams is more of an attitude, mindset, or aspect of company culture, than just a choice of systems.
It simply comes down trust and respect. From the top down.
The key is just to strongly emphasise these aspects of how you expect the work that needs to be done – and why your organisation does it – more than you may think.
And then make the culture revolve around the philosophy.
A quote often attributed to Peter Drucker says it all. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast‘.
Think company culture’s just a gimmick? Think again. Those values are tied to brand identity. Think brand identity isn’t important to success? Thought so.
Zapier are probably the kings of this organisational setup in tech.
It isn’t just the shiny 100% remote tech companies that have made an environment of trust and respect central to their culture, so that communication between globally located employees remains crystal clear.
It doesn’t suit all types of organisation to setup this way.
But check out the big hitters that are offering location-no-object telecommuting opportunities to ensure they get the skills they need.
In terms of general productivity, collaboration for disparate groups is easier than ever. For the office environment, flex working is the norm these days, not a shift in trend.
Encourage the leap of faith
So why don’t more employers encourage this? In the UK you have the right to request flexible working. (Granted that’s different to actual entitlement.)
Yet our view, speaking to customers, is that many can – and will – grant remote working ‘privileges‘. But that the workforce is split broadly into two camps.
1. Most Millenial, Gen Ys will want to be in cities for their social lives and to work on fancy campuses or in funky HQs with ball pools and to scoot around between desks or take a slide downstairs.
2. But Gen Xs may feel ‘trapped‘ and desperately want to ask and leave for a new life in the country or on the coast. But they’re scared. What happens if they’re made redundant?
What are their other options for work after a major reshuffle that sees their skills no longer required?
How will they justify that to their partners that their dreams of no more stress and costs of expensive crèches or getting into the best schools or paying huge mortgages that swallow their salaries are realised – and then pulled away again.
Now they’re stuck out in the sticks with no backup plans. Is that why nobody takes the leap?
Maybe you can encourage them to be brave and reassure them it’s worthwhile.
If you value them then you probably should to prove to them how much you recognise their contribution.
It doesn’t have to be the employees that are remote either. And working at home doesn’t suit everybody or all types of work.
CoSchedule call their neck of the woods in North Dakota ‘The Silicon Prairie‘.
That’s kind of our own story too. You can choose a location and build your business anywhere and we’re proud to see our team and their families benefit from a better quality of life by the coast.
That work-life balance is a great lure to bring in skilled workers that can pick and choose wherever and with whoever they’d like to work.
There are any number of resources and tools for ensuring communication, inclusion and engagement to make sure geographically dispersed or offsite colleagues are on the same page about goals, accountability and values.
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You can access tonnes of great articles, especially from startups that have scaled, or ‘millennial-friendly‘ employers on how they get the most from ‘virtual departments‘ with online water cooler chats, periodical get togethers or ‘retreats‘, smart chat and project management apps, timezone issue management, prevention of employee isolation and so on and so on.
There are many tips and tricks and tools and snippets of advice on processes, most of which you’ll probably already be familiar with.
Something that’s an advantage for recruiters to know that potential remote hires are already happily using Slack or Trello or similar methods that are no longer the preserve of the tech or startup world.
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Many 100% remote companies are only remote because they started as side projects or simply needed to work that way within their niche, network or to negotiate skills shortages.
But the same tenets of trust, clarifying policy, communication and expectations apply as they do with brick-and-mortar organisations.
You’ll still need systems to manage hours worked, training, annual leave, recruitment and to extract analytical data – information that could be of more importance than ever when you are spread over so many time zones and jurisdictions.
Big pond – all the fish
Recruitment management is arguably your largest challenge. With such a wide pool of talent to tap into, especially if you’re going for ‘worldwide remote‘, where you’ll have a significant uptick in applications.
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Managing this volume of applicants and onboarding remote hires into your core HRIS system will be the most critical automations required.
How you customise your pipeline and build your shortlist will be crucial.
You’ll also need to go beyond localised job boards and social media to advertise.
Your network is critical and a strong careers page integration with an automated application process is vital.
One of the most underused sources of strong candidates are your existing team so an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that enables employee referrals will pay dividends as a faster, cheaper way to hire, that generally produces better candidates while lowering turnover rates.
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The real gap and opportunity for many types of team, including remote teams, is where employee engagement and recognition meet Performance Management.
The problem is many HR systems don’t have the kind of functionality in their employee performance engagement sections that dedicated 360-feedback-style systems offer.
Virtual slaps on the back and high fives become more important and engagement based on KPIs helps to enforce the clarity of focus required.
But really, the underlying factors are the same. Be trusting. Communicate clearly on expectations and purpose.
Encourage your valued employees to live the way they need to so they feel healthy and secure.
Do you even need a remote culture to make those a standard?
Just make sure nobody feels isolated if they do choose the bail for the coast.
They might not be at the beach all day long … and if they are, you should trust them to work their hours at night.
Featured Image courtesy of picjumbo.com
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